Contract extension candidates, projections before the end of the 2022 NFL season

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback James Bradberry (24) against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

• Arizona Cardinals DI Zach Allen: He has taken major strides in Year 4 and boasts a 70.0-plus grade thus far.

• Philadelphia Eagles CB James Bradberry: He has already made his one-year, $7.25 million deal signed this offseason look like a steal.

Cleveland Browns: They could get their entire interior offensive line signed through 2025.

Estimated Reading Time: 7 mins

As the 2022 season winds down, the business of football comes back into focus across the NFL. A handful of end-of-season extensions are an inevitability as teams hope to keep their players from hitting the free agency market and potentially receiving an offer that prices them out of town. We take a crack at predicting a few that could get done before the end of the 2022 season. 

DI Zach Allen, Arizona Cardinals

The 2019 NFL Draft class is starting to look like it has the makings of a potentially historic group along the defensive line — in particular, along the interior. Allen is a 4-3 defensive end who does most of his damage over or between the tackles. With veteran J.J. Watt potentially on his way out after this season — whether by retirement or to seek out a true contender to finish his career with — Allen’s importance to this defense going forward is amplified.

Allen’s 27 quarterback pressures through just 10 games in 2022 are more than any prior season of his career, and his 10 tackles for loss or no gain are tied for the fourth-most in the NFL among interior defenders, leading to a career-best 67.2 run-defense grade. Allen is still just 25 years old and looks to be blossoming into an every-down, impact player.

With so many quality interior defenders set to hit free agency this offseason, Arizona would be wise to get a deal done with Allen before the market completely takes off. Below is a list of just the 2019 NFL Draft interior defenders under 300 pounds, which ignores other quality players set to hit free agency, such as the New Orleans SaintsDavid Onyemata and the New York JetsSheldon Rankins, among others.

Player Draft pick in 2019 2021-2022 overall PFF grade
Ed Oliver No. 9 71.0
Zach Allen No. 65 65.8
Dre’Mont Jones No. 71 54.2
Charles Omenihu No. 161 67.9

Contract projection: Three years, $37.5 million ($12.5M per year), $26 million total guaranteed

CB James Bradberry, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles have a ton of valuable contributors slated to hit free agency this offseason, with Bradberry among the most important to their 9-1 start this season. On defense alone, starting safeties Marcus Epps and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, interior defender Javon Hargrave and linebacker T.J. Edwards are all playing very good football and could be extension candidates before the season ends.

Bradberry was signed to a one-year, $7.25 million deal this offseason after the NFC East rival New York Giants made him a cap casualty as they kick-started their rebuild. Bradberry has been spectacular so far for Philadelphia, forming one of the top outside cornerback duos in the NFL opposite Darius Slay, earning a 77.0 coverage grade that ties for 15th-best. Since 2020, Bradberry ranks sixth among cornerbacks in PFF’s wins above replacement metric, and while he appears a better fit as a No. 2 cornerback for the tail end of his career, there’s a perfect situation set up in Philadelphia.

Bradberry is scheme-diverse, with experience playing a lot of press-man coverage at prior stops with the Carolina Panthers and Giants, and now continuing to excel with more soft and off alignments in Philadelphia. Bradberry’s 44.8% completion rate allowed is a top-five mark on the season, and his 13 forced incompletions leads the NFL to go along with his three interceptions. He’s allowed an explosive reception of 15-plus yards on just 1.5% of coverage snaps this season, the 12th-best rate among cornerbacks.

Among all the Eagles defenders in need of new contracts, Bradberry may be the top priority given investments elsewhere on the roster and his value to this defense.

Contract projection: Two years, $24 million ($12M per year), $16.5 million total guaranteed

CB Jonathan Jones, New England Patriots

Jones has logged 364 snaps at outside cornerback through Week 11 this season despite never eclipsing 119 in any full season of his career before 2022. The former undrafted free agent is 5-foot-10 and may not be a long-term solution out wide for New England, but the demonstrated versatility certainly adds value for the 29-year-old in a pivotal contract year.

Jones missed the majority of the 2021 season with a shoulder injury that required surgery but has bounced back in a major way as a big piece of the NFL’s No. 1 defense in terms of expected points added (EPA) allowed per play through Week 11, a -0.214 mark that is by far the best in the league thus far. Jones has allowed a completion on just 41.4% of balls thrown into his coverage, the lowest of any cornerback in the NFL through Week 11, and his 0.67 yards per coverage snap allowed is tied for the sixth-lowest in the NFL. Quarterbacks have largely avoided throwing at Jones, and for good reason, with his three interceptions on 29 targets tied with Carolina Panthers rising star cornerback Jaycee Horn for the third-best rate of interceptions per coverage target, at 6.9%.

After back-to-back seasons earning career-best grades, fellow Patriots cornerback Jalen Mills’ 42.7 mark for 2022 is his lowest since his 2016 rookie campaign. With rookie cornerback Jack Jones earning the second-best coverage grade in the NFL this season, perhaps Mills becomes a cap casualty and Jonathan Jones effectively replaces the money owed to him for 2023 in an extension.

Contract projection: Two years, $16 million ($8M per year), $10 million total guaranteed

C Ethan Pocic, Cleveland Browns

Pocic looks to be the latest reclamation project for legendary offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who has consistently gotten the most out of his players in Cleveland and helped develop guard Wyatt Teller into one of the best players in the NFL at his position. Pocic is a former second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks who struggled for most of his rookie contract but showed enough in Year 4 to earn a one-year, $3 million deal to stay in Seattle.

Despite earning a career-high 67.3 grade in 2021, Pocic signed a veteran minimum salary benefit contract with the Browns this offseason as they looked to replace longtime starter J.C. Tretter. Pocic’s 83.0 grade in 2022 is second to only Kansas City Chiefs center Creed Humphrey, with his 84.3 run-blocking grade also ranking second. While Pocic still has room to grow as a pass-protector, his 2.4% quarterback pressure percentage allowed is still the eighth-lowest at the position.

Unfortunately, Pocic suffered a knee injury in Week 11 that is expected to sideline him for multiple weeks, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski. This is particularly unfortunate given the return of quarterback Deshaun Watson in Week 13, as Pocic loses valuable reps to potentially build chemistry through the end of the season heading into 2023. Nevertheless, even though Cleveland already has two of the most expensive guards in the NFL, they clearly have no issue investing along the interior and could solidify their trio for a few years by locking down Pocic before he enters free agency.

Contract projection: Three years, $17.25 million ($5.75M per year), $7.75 million total guaranteed

RB Jeff Wilson Jr., Miami Dolphins

Miami already extended one of the players it acquired at the trade deadline in edge defender Bradley Chubb, who agreed to a five-year, $110 million deal through 2027. Wilson, meanwhile, has hit the ground running in Miami following his reunion with head coach Mike McDaniel and is a perfect fit in his head coach's wide-zone rushing attack. Among running backs with at least 50 carries on the season, Wilson’s 78.4 rushing grade is tied for 18th, with his 18 explosive rushes tied for 11th.

In two games since the trade deadline, Wilson has 26 carries for 170 yards (6.5 yards per attempt), with five receptions for 45 yards and two total touchdowns. He has quickly become a reliable part of the Dolphins' high-flying offense, and with Chase Edmonds traded to Denver in the Chubb deal and Raheem Mostert a pending free agent, Miami doesn’t have any running backs under contract for 2023. While the free agent market is as loaded as any offseason in recent memory, the Dolphins just saw what uncertainty can lead to with the Edmonds signing, and perhaps getting a fair deal done with a known commodity in Wilson makes sense for all parties.

This would be a modest deal for Wilson, mirroring the extension his current and former teammate in Mostert signed with the San Francisco 49ers in 2019 but getting him as much in total guarantees as he has in career earnings to date. With the Dolphins spending top dollar across their roster on both sides of the ball, they need to find bargains wherever they can — especially with their first 2023 NFL Draft pick, currently projected at No. 60 overall. 

Contract projection: Three years, $9 million ($3M per year), $3.75 million total guaranteed


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